Slovenia is one of Europe’s smallest countries, and shares a border with Austria, Croatia, Italy and Hungary. It has a tiny stretch of coastline along which you’ll find two picturesque Venetian-influenced cities, Piran and Koper, some protected nature reserves and a lovely stretch of beach at Portoroz.Lake Bled, Slovenia | from Pure Offers
Most people find themselves in the pretty, lakeside capital, Ljubljana, which has a lively student population and a medieval castle, and is close to the gorgeous Lake Bled. Outdoor types will enjoy the Julian Alps, which boast some of Europe’s best hiking, the Soca Valley, with rafting on the River Soca, and the caves at Skocjan and Postojna. Spa breaks are also popular in Slovenia, and there are currently more than 15 natural thermal spas.
Getting there and getting around Slovenia
A variety of no-frills and charter airlines fly to Slovenia, including easyJet, Monarch, Adria, First Choice and Wizz Air to Ljubljana, and, from June 7, Ryanair to the eastern city of Maribor. Alternatively, you can fly to Trieste in Italy with Ryanair; the border is just 20 minutes away and it takes just over an hour to reach Ljubljana.
Once there, you may find hiring a car the easiest way to get around this compact country which is the size of Wales. However, if you are only visiting, say, Ljubljana and Bled, which are connected by an hour-long, cheap train ride, you may not need your own transport.
Beaches in Slovenia
With just 42 kilometres of coastline at the top of Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, there aren’t many choices of coastal beach. The best place to go is Portoroz, a proper seaside holiday resort with countless hotels, restaurants and a long stretch of beach to boot. Lakes Bled and Bohinj are nippy but have pleasant grass beaches around their edges on which to relax and soak up the sun.
Sightseeing in Slovenia
The most visited place in Slovenia is the pretty capital, Ljubljana, which is overlooked by an imposing 13th-century medieval castle. Climb up to the ramparts to get panoramic views over the compact city, then visit other sights including St Nicholas Cathedral, the ornate Dragon Bridge and the National Gallery and Museum of Modern Art. Relax in Tivoli Park or Preseren Square. Other cities to put on the must-see list include the culturally rich Maribor and the spectacular medieval splendour of Piran on the coast.
Triglav National Park combines Slovenia’s highest mountain (Mount Triglav) with lakes, forests and alpine meadows for outdoor enthusiasts. This includes picturesque Lake Bled, an hour from Ljubljana, where you can take a boat out to the island and visit its pretty church.
The illuminated Postojna Cave is well worth a visit; resembling echoing cathedrals, it is the second-largest cave system in the world. Thrill-seekers can go white-water rafting down the Sava River, while chill-seekers should visit one of the country’s many curative spas.
Family activities in Slovenia
Swimming and boating on the lakes should appeal to many children. Horse lovers will enjoy visiting Lipica, where dazzling white Lipizzaner horses are bred and put through their exacting paces.
Adventurous kids will get a thrill white-water rafting, while no less thrilling rides are on offer at Atlantis Water World. Ljubljana’s zoo is also worth a day trip.
Day trips in Slovenia
In such a compact country, most places are a day trip from the capital, although such is the beauty of many of the attractions that you may find yourself wanting to stay longer. Scenic Lake Bled is only an hour from Ljubljana, in the heart of the Triglav National Park, while the mysterious Lake Cerknica, which disappears into the underground system of caves on which it rests during the summer months, is worth a visit for its sheer weirdness.
Eating out in Slovenia
The Slovenians have a penchant for Italian-style food, which is unsurprising given the proximity of the two countries, so you’ll find plenty of pizza and pasta dishes on the menu. The proximity of Austria and Hungary has also had an influence and you’ll find your fair share of hearty soups, stews and meaty dishes reflecting this.
On the coast, you’ll be treated to fresh seafood, while in the mountains you’re more likely to be tasting cured hams, sausage and stodgy doughnuts and dumplings. The local wines are also delicious.
Nightlife in Slovenia
There are around 50,000 students in the capital, so you’ll always find a vibrant bar or club featuring live music there. It’s also a culturally rich city, with opera, ballet and two orchestras to suit the arty crowd.
If you want a thumping beach resort, it’s got to be Portoroz, Slovenia’s equivalent of Benidorm, where the bars are open all hours and there’s an international crowd, including an increasing number of Brits to socialise with.
Shopping in Slovenia
Appropriate souvenirs to bring back include lace, baskets, wooden utensils, ceramics and pottery, while jewellery and beeswax products make excellent gifts. There is a flea market in Ljubljana on Sunday mornings along the banks of the River Ljubljanica, but normal shops are closed from Saturday lunchtime until Monday, so if you want to go to the shops and you’re only in town for the weekend, make sure you shop on Saturday morning. The exception is BTC City shopping which is open all day on Saturdays and on Sundays until 1pm.
There is a Nama department store in Ljubljana and Skofja Loka which is open all day on Saturdays. Disappointingly, the name brands that we recognise aren’t much cheaper than in the UK.